The following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey and Sen Elizabeth Warren’s offices. Both were elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. Both are Democrats.
WASHINGTON DC – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) are calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to ensure patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) can continue to access life-saving medication-assisted treatment, in particular, buprenorphine, during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter sent last week, the Senators point to the fact that concerns such as barriers to treatment, risk of respiratory problems, and dangers of treatment interruption are magnified for patients suffering from opioid use disorder during the pandemic.
As physicians who prescribe medication-assisted treatment may be unavailable, patients with opioid use disorder are further placed at risk for relapse, overdose, and overdose death.
The Senators specifically call on HHS and SAMHSA to immediately increase the number of patients from 275 to 500 that physicians authorized to treat patients with buprenorphine may see, as well as to immediately process requests for emergency patient-limit increases.
“You can and should take immediate action to ensure that patients with OUD are not denied the medication they need, do not exacerbate the strain on our nation’s emergency departments and hospitals, and, most importantly, are not added to the COVID-19 death count,” wrote the Senators in their letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and SMSHA Assistant Secretary Elinore McCance-Katz. “We must empower our heroic health care providers to treat and save as many lives as possible in this time of crisis.”
A copy of the letter can he found HERE.